How Many Viable 2013 Fantasy Football Draft Strategies Are There?

Jamaal Charles, Reggie Bush and DeMarco Murray - USA Today Images

Jamaal Charles, Reggie Bush and DeMarco Murray – USA Today Images

Six of eight fantasy football writers recommend it: drafting running backs in the first two rounds of this year’s drafts is the near consensus among those who obsess and fret about this game the most.

The lineup that scored the most projected fantasy points, of course, was from one of the two writers who chose a divergent path, going running back free until – incredibly – the fifth round.

The run on runners took hold from the start of Sports Jerks Network’s Mockdraftpocalypse, one of the first industry mock drafts conducted after the rush of free agency that saw Wes Welker, Steven Jackson, Percy Harvin, Greg Jennings, and a host of others find new homes.

Eight of the 12 participants in the slow draft – in which there was no time limit imposed on league members – were fantasy writers who have likely participated in more than 100 collective mock drafts since the end of the 2012 season.

In other words, a sick bunch.

Eleven of the first 12 and 15 of the mock’s first 20 selections were running backs, reflecting the pervasive belief that abiding by the law of supply and demand dictates snagging workhorse runners in the early going.

The five non-running backs chosen in the top-20, in order: Calvin Johnson (1.06), Rob Gronkowski (2.01), A.J. Green (2.04), Jimmy Graham (2.07), and Brandon Marshall (2.08).

I would never charge that there’s only one way to approach a fantasy draft, but with the wide receiver position so very lush with depth, with tight ends (besides the four elites) so easily replaceable, and with potential top-12 quarterbacks available as late as the 10th round, I’ll be a vociferous advocate of burning early picks on running backs.

I used my first three picks in this mock draft on Jamaal Charles, DeMarco Murray, and Reggie Bush, three backs promised a featured role in offenses that’ll be more than friendly in point per reception formats. Running back depth will increase as the season draws nearer – it always does. Even so, taking backs with even your first three selections will leave you with plenty of wide receiver depth, and a viable quarterback to boot.

If quarterback ADPs spike in the coming months – and they will – even better. The supply of useable fantasy signal callers means drafting one early is, at best, ill advised, and as worst, a wasted pick.

My three starting wide receivers, with my first receiver selection coming late in the fourth round, were Hakeem Nicks, T.Y. Hilton, and Chris Givens, who is – for now – the Rams’ No. 1 receiving option. My backup receivers include Brian Hartline and Vincent Brown, who has shown his route running and pass catching chops, along with good chemistry with Philip Rivers, in limited action.

My one regret: Drafting Matthew Stafford in the seventh round. I took Stafford well after his current ADP, sure, but there were still quarterbacks in Stafford’s ranking tier who I could have drafted a full round later. I would’ve liked to use that seventh rounder on a wide receiver – Stevie Johnson, perhaps – and taken Tony Romo in the eighth round.

Using early 2013 fantasy points projections from Pro Football Focus, I added up the fake football production of each roster in Sports Jerks’ Mockpocalypse. It was by no means a perfect way of measuring mock draft success — most participants assembled legit fantasy lineups in this mock. Still, I thought projections might help us understand which draft strategies were most viable.

Sports Jerks Network’s Mockpocalypse Draft Results
Salvatore Stefanile: 1,997 points
C.D. Carter: 1,996 points
Rens Macneill: 1,964 points
Zach Law: 1,947 points
Ryan Coli: 1,924 points
JJ Zachariason: 1,921 points
Rich Hribar: 1,904 points
John D. Beckler: 1,890 points
J. Hartness: 1,853 points
Nick Mensio: 1,840 points
Travis Rowe: 1,787 points
Patrick Lane: 1,780 points

Just when I thought I had whittled down draft approaches, Stefanile – who didn’t take a running back until the fifth round – swoops in and out-projects everyone. Stefanile started his draft with Calvin Johnson, Jimmy Graham, Demaryius Thomas, and Pierre Garcon.

His starting running backs were Danny Woodhead and Isaiah Pead, both of whom are likely to be caught in a timeshare this year, with Woodhead possibly taking a strictly passing-down role in San Diego.

The stockpile of projected PFF points from Stefanile’s batch of wide receivers was more than enough to compensate for his running backs. While this won’t prompt me to scrap everything I know about 2013 player values, the (theoretical) success of this sort of late-round running back strategy is noteworthy, and shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.

League members bought into Zachariason’s late-round quarterback strategy, going the extreme route in many cases. Drew Brees was the first signal called off the board at 3.07 (the seventh pick of the third round), which almost coincides with his average draft position. Russell Wilson wasn’t drafted until the eighth round, and Andrew Luck plummeted into the 11th round, eventually selected by Zach Law as a backup for starter Tom Brady.

The real shock came at 5.08, when Zachariason selected Aaron Rodgers more than three rounds after his ADP – an incredible value by any standard, and a credit to Zachariason for refusing to pass up the sale on Rodgers, despite his preaching of the late-round quarterback draft strategy.

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C.D. Carter is a reporter, author of zombie stories, writer for The Fake Football and XN Sports. Fantasy Sports Writers Association member. His work  has been featured in the New York Times.
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